мене на могилis[xxxix]

Cry Havoc, Let slip the dogs of war![xl]

He let his voice slide into a whisper as he controlled the crowded cockpit. In his imagination he could see a drone’s eye view of the slag towers.


And he was in the best tank now in service – the T-14, whose low rumbling sleek military green frame was out on the battlefield in a pack of wolves over the land. Where the streets have no name, merely Number-Letters in an astute vision akilter. In Cyrillic, because they were Russian, he to flame out the old enemy. Without a trace. He looked across at the gunner, rotating through his list of targets. Burred with the taste of beardlets he concentrated Concentrated on  destruction by madness, on starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn.[xli]

This was the torture plain of Donbas. For now, the streaming gang of Russians mobbing the зелёнка, green scraggly brush meant to hide them from hidden opponents. Russian tanks poured across the disputed border – because, to the Russian, what is his but what is yours is negotiable – in number and scope.

There was occasionally even some semblance of moderate military discipline. A hate-filled gas of iron, germs, and bad tactics.

He focused, focused, focused. Focus on the dawn which was now breaking along the distant trees on the sullen horizon. Love turned to rust on the guts of red. Kostik moved his head to shake out his tinnitus but quickly turned back to sight, not sound. It was a sight that killed you. He knew that, at least in the front of his skull.

The land was empty of wheat and fodder for hoofed beats, but its’terrain was what the tank was designed for: a thoroughbred of orthogonal grace. It was quiet as the three watched their stations.

But finally, the driver, Kostik, uttered: “They are burning their money in wastebaskets.” He spat on the running floor where everything moved in staccato.

Driver Lyonya startled at first then composed. “Whatever do you mean?”

“The fuel is the commodity. Burning it like trash that warms the caliber.”

“If they get hits, it does not matter.” Lyonov wished for nothing more than to wait in the sunlight and drink coffee and talked for hour after hour. He said none of this, now or any time.

“We are the terror through the wall, creeping up by Wolf’s tail for surprise.” Kostik then beaded his eye through the tube sensing that there was a Javelin man in the rubbish bushes. He swiveled and searched – but did not find what he was looking for. Dull roots with spring rain dappled the escape. When searching for the acute angle,  man and machine are one. Where the dead tree gives no shelter.

But inside he was hungry, for Kostik’s stomach growled. Stale borscht without enough beef or sour cream. It was harder to kill, not having enough to eat. Even wisps of odor turned rancid in the cheap cologne and stale soap.

Kostik waded his dry tongue over a dry inner check. Dry stone, no sound of wate,r even the shadow under this red skin.

“Why do they fight this way?”

“They fended off Kyiv. Why not hold their ground in the disputed territories on the free regions?” By this Lyonov meant the two nations which Russia recognized. Both men thought ‘Know respect for the near abroad.’ That is why the DEFCON was raised. This was a Russian police action.

Kostik strained his neck. Bleary cheery fatigue had set in. He thought: ‘Open your eyes!’ It became a kind of chant in the heat of the moment. Pies Iesu Domine. Dona eis requiem. Thunk.

Du hast. Du hast. Du hast.[xlii]

Would any name of the rose be so logical in the swing of Foucault’s Pendulum?

Search and Destroy. Or be destroyed.

The commander of the tank crew was cross-eyed – 20 days without rest to make up for the losses at Kyiv. This was the way to Red Square and a parade for the honored heroes. To swalk through a portal, and survey with his own spectacles the red bell-shaped towers and Lenin’s Tomb. Dreams to be fulfilled by grinding down a sleepless daze. Somehow the commander suspected he, and those who followed him, would be in the ground not returning to the rock of tarmac at the pinnacle of Mount Moskva. Instead, a handful of dust.

He half-smiled without a hint of happiness.

The game almost ended like the slow echo of the tin pan alley piano on its last parchment. The tank had lost though the inhabitants did not, yet know it. The match had been lit in silence. There was a nose targeted by a guerilla. Sight acquired and he did not hesitate to squeeze. Belch. Rumble. Whoosh.

Target attained. No more dreams pursued on the rusty steel cage of broken nails. No more parades or even days to be counted. Instead, a toy frame of a blitzed bombed and flesh-ridden T-14, burned tires stopped, with a turret akimbo blown next to it. A hand left on a yoke. The impression of an eyeball on a sidestick cold. Battered bleak of brain all drained of brilliance.

Your destiny is what happens to you. The Burial of the Dead.[xliii] The bodies all over the ground. Each one a helter-skelter.



Записки українського самашедшого[xliv]

I know I have been mad. Look at all the streets crawling with people, and I know I am different. Божевільний.[xlv]

When I was young at the time, I did not seem to be mad. But how do you prove madness? I have thought about this more than anything else. I grew up in orchards and the fields sometimes thinking about this. I grew up in Evermore.[xlvi]

Then I then grew up in the forests. No one told me I was mad there. I prayed to feel the softly spoken magic spells. But time was pursuing me. With great vigor and force. That is why I clung to the Dnieper, desperate for the guard she offered. I prayed for it.

Then I came to Kyiv and saw the six bridges spring up. I never knew when they came up, which ones were new and which ones were built, and the rebuilt. There was a war, though I do not know when the dates were. That’s the city – things spring up from no place in any colour you like.

That is why I dislike the center. Between the five mighty bridges,[xlvii] there are too many people who are called “Saints.” Why go to the city to prove you love God? City folk and country people are different. Not better, just different.

You show love to the animals.

One time many years ago, they took me into the hospital. They wanted to see what kind of madness I had. I told them I was mad. They believed me. That should have been the end of it. If everyone agrees, what point is there to see to what degree? They said it was to help other people. But what did I care for other people? No one had ever helped me, and I wasn’t so rich as to give away free help. They said they would feed me. I took that but I knew they could feed me if they wanted to. That is called hoarding where I grew up.

There in a room with a plate full of food – more than I had for myself – a man came in. In between bread with sweet creamery butter, he asked me what I knew about my parents. I told him that my mother had died giving birth to me and I did not know what a father was.

He showed me a picture. Yes, that is the one. How did you find him to get the picture from him? I do not understand “copy,” sorry.

What do you want to know?

I will look that up in my notes. Where is my purse? If you have taken it, you will know I take lots of notes with everything paid close meaning. The color of a man’s beard will tell you whether it is real or not.

Oh, that is simple: if they match it is likely that the beard is false.

Who taught me how to write? I learned the men would teach me to write if I did things for them.

That is secret. But it was urgent for them. I got what I wanted, and they got this need scratched. I got what I wanted, and they got this need scratched. It was neither pleasant nor unpleasant. It simply was.

You are looking down at your notes. Yes, I had a child. It was taken from me. I was grateful. Then things were fixed. It was made to sleep, then they let me go. Maybe they did not know that they let me go, I do not remember. It may be in my notes.

May I please have more bread and butter? It will keep me warm. It quiets the ticking; do you not hear it? Your watch makes it. It is one of many reasons I do not like cities. Noise.

I think silence and music are better.

Yes, I wandered away from Kyiv. Yes, to the North. No, I know not to head to Chornobyl. I came from there. There was confusion. A great catastrophe happened. I was sent to live with a woman and a man. She wanted a child, but I was not the one. I grew away and then wandered.

Back to the point? I do not understand.

You want to talk about what I saw? About the convoy? Well, it was long. No, I do not know how long it was. Why did they stop? I will tell you a story and that way you can grasp it better. I must have my notes. To remember.

Thank you. May the angels of Avalon bless you.

Here it is. It was night, the deep dark kind with clouds dropping snow. Four men called me. They asked if I was cold. I said yes. They asked if I wanted to sleep with them. I said yes and thanked them kindly.

In the middle of the night, they wanted me to do something for each and every one of them. I said what would they do for me? They said I would like it too. I said no, I would not. They asked why.

I said I did not like it. They scratched their heads.

They asked me if you do not know if I will enjoy it with them. I told them it had been the same with whoever I tried it with. It is the same. I knew I was being crowded towards the edge of the tent. It took a while. Do you want the exact time? I have it noted here.

Then the thing happened. I was gagged. Do you want details and lengths? Yes, I have all the details. I put them down before I forget. No, it was not pleasant.

I got up when they slept and left. I took bread without any butter. I walked and got a rides to the city. The Russians were not here. Yes, even with the rockets and shelling I felt safe. A woman sent me to you. I think she thought it was kind.

No, I do not have any feeling for ‘country’ just the Dnieper Valley.

What is the point? I learned a word: reciprocity. You could feed me, but you do not. The soldiers could make a deal, but they did not. Hoarding is what it is called. The Russians are worse, but you have the same sin.

May I have some bread and butter? I have earned it.

Jam? That is a treat. What kind is it?

You have a cousin in the West who ships you blueberry jam.

Spread the butter out all the way and spread the blueberry jam on half of my bread to see whether I like it.



Борртьбу з бридотою[xlviii]

“You are old, as I mentioned before, and have grown most uncommonly fat.” [xlix]

It was true, thought Grygoriy, he was uncommonly stout, not overweight. But, at this time last year, he was portly in a proud carefree manner in a house near Marinka, near the town of Donetsk of one the great plains where a man could be born and be buried next to his wife.

The Ukrainian flag flew atop the yellow brick high building thе was the Lviv Town Hall, almost as an act of defiance. Lviv now had thrice as many people to protect in its tiny squares. Some of the newcomers drank espresso and watched Берегиня.

But Grygoriy was far from the central city and the monuments. Once he went to the office every day and did important work, but far from here. Now, staring at the Cemetery in Lviv, it was strangely ornate in its differences. He fought that darkness as best he could, but it was a losing battle for him.

He looked into the cemetery, almost an investigation, and saw the crammed graves in granite amidst the elm tree that seemed to be huddled together for warmth. There were a few bunches of bouquets and more wilted fleurs. Grygoriy mused that the coming of spring, here in Ukraine, was the last gasp of Old man winter which had broken like an eruption of Le Sacre du Printemps. Picture of Russia in two parts, a jeu du rapt in an irregular transmutation.[l] He looked inward to the main stroad observing the traffic dance along the boulevard. To his uncouth eyes, from a town in the East, it was noisy great crunching, snarling chords. It was, in short, an abhorrence of everything a village stood for. One walked through a village. One traveled through a town. Grygoriy did not know what Lviv was, it had come out of the new. The hum of an oboe filled his ears as if to gently lead him along the roaring path. He looked down in his mind’s eye.

Then looked upon the huge mass of tracks imaging that train station in its marble façade front and its gray pinnacled dome. Of the old world. Half-seen and half-remembered from when he got here. There were saplings to guide his way and asphalt square patterns to a main street. The walkway was large and patterned in obsessive grids. New again emerging from the old inside, with its chandelier’s cups upturned in faded pewter high up hung from the graceful pattern above the doors, below glass in the wall with advertisements tasteful, and glass studded with white through the ceiling. But in truth what he actually saw was the modern concrete, oak benches, and round bulbs outside the round semicircles where the trains docked. The trains which wallowed on dirty paper strewn tracks amidst the iron breath of the lungs of old steel. There were trees in cleft-angular unison.

At least the plains were still flat. He had only been once to Berlin, even though the natives had told him that Berlin was flat, they did not know what they were talking about. Flat runs to the horizon, not to the corner.

Then he turned to the natural cemetery. He truly looked at the smoldering graves. He sat and thought of the faces suborned in stone of Jesus Christ. Khrystos Voskres. Voistynu Voskres. It brought him a taste of the spring sun and its quailing explosion. He laughed because he knew He was coming. Even to the rows of graves, one like the other.

Another person – an old woman – sat next to him on the bench. It was an odd thing to do because the bench drained all of the life from your legs until it reached up through your spine. One must rise to the air and worship the sun.

But he saw that the old plump woman was a stickler for manners: the man must start a conversation even if the lady wanted it. It was subaltern knowledge that the young could not understand until they were not young.

“добрий день.”[li] Good day.

She responded: “Dobryi den.” Good day. “I am Nyura Ninevna.” She stuck out her hand and waited for him to shake it. “I have not seen you at hand.”

“They called me Grygoriy Grygorovich. I am a refugee, so I now know no one. The land that I left is now torn asunder.”

“Your father’s name.”

“Yes, I am so blessed. He was the solicitor in the same place. I took over his trade.”

“What did you used to do?”

It was clear she wanted to talk but her face told him there was nothing particular about him.

He waited for a truck loaded with flour to pass.[lii]

“I was a solicitor.”

“That is a good profession.”

“It at least teaches you to argue both sides.”

“I can see that. Can you give me an example?”

“In my small village, it was the usual: wills and trusts and thus and so. But the most contentious issue were the divorces.”

“Only fair, since marriage is a sign to not just men and women but to God.”

“Indeed. But the lawyer must argue both sides. If the husband, he will tell you about the strain of being interrupted and, if the wife, how she does everything and gets not one word of praise. I argued on either side. Though once I should have taken a side, but the money was too good to ignore.”

“It was the man who offered more money.” Full stop.


“May I ask you a more formal question?”

“Tak.” Yes.

“Did you come here with anyone?”

“My wife was obliterated by a cluster fragment.”

“Mine as well: My husband was killed by a bomb. Any others?”

“My daughter and her husband were shot with their hands behind their back.”[liii]

“I am so sorry. My child died long ago.”

“The love that makes all fresh decays. There are missile strikes here.”

“No place is safe. Seven died here, yesterday in Lviv.”

He looked back. “I have not seen the bodies yet. I heard that the windows of a hotel were shattered.”

Then she paused. This was her hardest of the questions: “What was love for you?”

He waited a moment. There was the vision of human beings with still faces but without a name. And he returned to the now.

“In my youth, I took to the law, and then later, argued each case with my wife.”[liv]

Then he got up from the hard granite bench and moved on to this room at Hotel Nton, where he could watch the trains through gossamer budding elms. He took his only book – by Lewis Carroll, rescued from out of his smashed-down home amidst the fielding plain of his youth.